Hoist On Their Own Petard!
(Updated 12/7/2013) It turns out that sometimes Trolls wind up being hoist on their own petard!
Photographer Daniel Morel says his decisive victory in court last week against Agence France Presse (AFP) and Getty Images was not only a vindication for him but a win for all photographers trying to eke out a living in the digital age.
A federal jury awarded Morel $1.2 million in damages after determining that both agencies willfully infringed his copyrights in 2010 by distributing eight of his exclusive news images of the Haiti earthquake without permission.
—See more at pdnonline
(Updated 10/9/2013) Recently I received a very official letter from a company I can only describe as a troll. Before I go any further with this bit of a rant, I should make it clear that I am all for protecting creative works. I certainly want copyright protection for my writing, pictures, etc. Anyway, this very legal looking document claimed I was using a copyrighted image on my website, and it demanded payment right away. For the sake of argument, let’s say I’m willing to stipulate that I made a mistake and that I somehow — I know it was inadvertent — managed to use an image that needed to be licensed. However, I have no real way to prove that such is the case. And even if I agree, the penalty they demanded is absurd. A take-down notice and knowing that “they” are watching should be sufficient for a first offense. I’m not the only one that “hates” trolls. If you do a Google Search on Patent Trolls, you will find a very long list.
Put In The Effort
Usually, I do all I can to make sure that any image I use is either clip art or online photos that I get by using Microsoft PowerPoint to download the image. On rare occasions, if I cannot find a suitable picture, I will search online for a royalty-free image (I use Shutterstock for this purpose; there are many other sources.) I firmly believe that if the photo in question was indeed a copyrighted image that I did not have the right to use, then I am obliged not to use that image without licensing it. But how do I know? Am I to take the word of this bully of a troll? How do I check?
I did find the image they referred to on my site. I looked at the file properties in the usual manner: right-click on the file, look at properties, and saw nothing about copyright or authorship, etc. – even though there are fields for such data. I’ve since learned a better way to check all the details in an image, but sadly, after the fact and using expensive software (Adobe Creative Suite) that many folks don’t have access to use. What does the average blogger do?
Call In The Attorneys
I checked with my attorney (more than one actually.) They all agreed that I should make no payment. They advised me to use some other image (I had already done so), and they suggested that there may be no way to inexpensively determine if, in fact, I had indeed violated copyright. There are many people up in arms over trolls, and they are now willing to fight back.
As if on cue, several days later, I received yet another letter from this copyright troll. Yep, they had found another image that they thought “might not require a license.” Why send me a message saying I might NOT need a license? Still, they felt obliged to give cost and penalties just in case I wanted to pay them. After an hour or so of searching, I found what they were indicating “might” be an issue. This time, the image in question was in a header in an ancient website design that I made using an authoring software that came with templates. One of the templates had a composite comprising many images of people — one of which looked quite like what they claimed was “their” picture. Really? What a rip-off!
Destroying a Reputation
This company is a well-known company. In my opinion, it has destroyed its reputation. I will go out of my way to never knowingly use one of their images. I certainly will avoid giving them any money. This company deserves to go out of business. They can easily be much more consumer-oriented in the first encounter. They have the tools to “nail” repeat offenders. Why not assume an error on the first offense?
In my opinion, this brand-destroying way of approaching people doesn’t take into account the number of amateurs (I consider myself to be one) who are blogging and developing websites. It doesn’t take into account the change in public attitude towards I.P. and Trolls. And when you have attorneys suggesting to people that they can safely “ignore” the demand letter you sent, you are doing something wrong.
The lesson for me in all this is to first be a lot more diligent in researching the images I use, and second, make sure I don’t approach I.P., Copyright, or other “ownership” issues in this manner. Instead, I will follow the DMCA guidelines. I’ll make my case to you and ask you to take down the offending I.P. If you refuse or are a repeat offender, then I will pursue legal remedies as appropriate. Otherwise, I assume you’ve made an innocent mistake. I would rather protect my brand than to come down heavy-handed right out of the chute.
There. I feel better having said my piece. (end rant)
More Rants From Others
Song a Day Mann – “Destroy all Patent Trolls”
And from the land of trolls, here is a poem expressing disdain for trolls between A.D. 980 and 1016! Rudyard Kipling – Dane-Geld
What are your thoughts on this “hot” topic?